What is Dairy UP?

  • 3 Theme Areas
  • 10 Projects
  • 5 years
  • A coordinated network of monitored dairy farms

Helping farmers increase productivity and profitability

Introductory video

Watch the video to gain an understanding on how the various Dairy UP partners and sponsors are working together.

The 10 Dairy UP projects (P1 – P10)

Program activities

Dairy Up is a major research and development program to help NSW farmers unlock the potential of their dairy businesses. It’s a collaboration of the University of Sydney’s Dairy Research Foundation, NSW DPI, Dairy Australia, and Scibus, with support from a range of NSW dairy industry players.

Dairy Up involves 10 projects which address the three keys to unlocking dairy potential: Improving productivity and profitability, de-risking farming systems and developing new markets.

P1: Unlocking the potential of Kikuyu-based systems

This project is exploring new management options to grow and utilise more Kikuyu over summer and increase the productivity of Kikuyu-based pastures. It includes specific projects investigating the use of using advanced technologies and remote sensing monitoring systems, the genetic diversity of Kikuyu, key antinutritional factors, environmental impact of Kikuyu-based systems, and opportunities for real time prediction and manipulation of its nutritive value for the animals.

There are five P1 projects: 

P1 project primary activities 

  1. Identify and quantify key impediments to achieve productivity gains from tropical grasses (kikuyu-based pasture) on commercial farms in NSW farms.
  2. Work with 10-15 farms in 3 regions (North Coast; Hunter/Mid Coast; Bega/South Coast) to help them to increase productivity by > 20%.
  3. Integrate remote sensing-derived data with advanced simulation modelling to predict changes in the nutritive value of kikuyu and other species commonly used in NSW.
  4. Identify and quantify genetic diversity in selected dairy-specific traits of kikuyu.
  5. Quantify C emissions on intensively managed pasture-based systems.
  6. Use resources from 1 to 5 to work collaboratively with EMAI to unveil the long-term problem of kikuyu toxicity (poisoning).
  7. Develop (from 2) an orchestrated network of leading farmers and advanced farming systems for innovative extension programs.

P1 Projects team

  • Lead/co-ordinator: Yani Garcia (University of Sydney)
  • A2B Remote pasture management lead: Martin Correa Luna
  • Anti-nutritional factors (Toxicity) module lead: Jim Rothwell (NSW DPI)
  • Genetics module lead: Richard Trethowan (USyd)
  • Environment module lead: Luciano Gonzalez (USyd)
  • Modeling/quality module lead: Juan Insua (UNMdP)
  • David Barber (QDAF)
  • Peter Beale (LLS  Hunter)
  • Bárbara Brito Rodríguez (NSW DPI)
  • Mark Callow (Norco)
  • David Deane (LLS Hunter)
  • Juan Gargiulo (NSW DPI)
  • Ruairi McDonnell (DA)
  • Neil Moss (Scibus)
  • John Penry (DA)
  • Pedro Pinczowski (NSW DPI)
  • Krista Plett (NSW DPI)
  • Zita Ritchie (NSW DPI; north coast)
  • Pheona Smoczynska (DA)

PhD Projects

P2: Unlocking the potential of the cow

This project is developing management practices to enable cows to achieve their genetic potential under NSW conditions. The focus is on profitable increases in both productivity and wellbeing in commercial settings. Specific projects are investigating cow longevity/survival, new tools for early detection and management of diseases caused by viruses and bacteria; and the use of milk as ‘diagnostic fluid’. advanced use of improved nutrition, environmental, and health management.

There are seven P2 projects: 

P2a: Cattle Longevity: Age and Parity & Intensive Herds*
P2a: Longevity: Future*
P2b: Early alerts*
P2c: Milk as a diagnostic tool*
P2d: Heat stress*
P2e: Calf husbandry*
p2f: Infectious diseases
(*indicates project details yet to be published)

P2 project primary activities 

A series of orchestrated programs and data-driven interventions to allow dairy cattle to be productive, healthy and reproductively successful by:

  1. Predicting and preventing disease in dairy herds, reducing the wastage of older cows while enhancing the potential to improve production and reproduction.
  2. Quantifying risk factors that influence the removal of cows using large data sets from USA, AUS and NZ and from local herds with detailed production and health data.
  3. Accurately detecting of diseases including arbovirus and bacterial disease in real time.
  4. Identifying behavioural and physiological characteristics of healthy and productive cows on farms. This will include monitoring related to facility design including environmental monitoring that can be linked to cow comfort and production. Time series statistical methods can be used in a multivariable context to identify the key drivers of cow comfort and production.
  5. Developing innovative extension models engaging farmers, farm-to-farm dissemination; consultants, service providers including engineering companies and researchers.

Project team

  • Lead/co-ordinator: Ian Lean, (Scibus)
  • Jim Rothwell (NSW DPI)
  • Helen Golder (Scibus)
  • Cameron Clark (USyd)
  • John Penry (DA)
  • Pheona Smoczynska (DA project manager)
  • Nico Lyons (NSW DPI)

PhD Projects

P3: The economics of intensification

Information about the productivity and profitability of intensive production systems (eg TMR, housed) to help dairy farmers considering, transitioning to or operating one.

P3 projects: 



  1. A planned, retrospective study of farm financial and physical performance in a subset of NSW farms currently along the system intensification continuum will be conducted (estimated 10-14 study farms).
  2. A social science study to explore drivers for change and the historic decision-making process in the same study cohort of farms.

Project team

  • Lead/co-ordinator: John Penry (Dairy Australia) (initial), Karen Romano (Dairy Australia) and Sheena Carter (NSW DPI)
  • Dan Armstrong (consultant)
  • Claire Waterman (Agvic)
  • Terry Batey (Agvic)
  • Juan Gargiulo (NSW DPI)
  • Pheona Smoczynska (DA project manager)

P4: Feedbase (intensive systems)

This project integrates precision agriculture, real-time monitoring of plants and soils, and advanced modelling, to grow more and better forage crops and increase water and land-use efficiency of intensified dairy systems.


  1. Integrate precision crop nourishment (timing, source, interactions summer-winter forage crops) through digital agriculture (digital soil mapping, digital sampling, decomposed digital data, precision water and N).
  2. Advanced real-time monitoring of crop development (and its application on forecast/planning and ration formulation).
  3. Quantify and verify water use efficiency of simple, double and triple forage crop systems.
  4. Assess drought impact: what systems look like with 50% of the required water.
  5. Upskill of management practices to produce quality silage.
  6. Model and evaluate temperate and tropical forage options including annual legumes as winter and summer options; intercropping.
  7. New directions in maize research: Brown Mid-Rib corn; genetic improvement of maize for silage; superior starch characteristics; tailoring maize silage to system/animal needs. Data-driven approaches for high quality maize silage: grow maize for quality through detailed nutritional analysis and feed evaluation.

Project team

  • Lead/co-ordinator: Yani Garcia, (University of Sydney)
  • Ian Lean or Neil Moss (Scibus)
  • Nico Lyons (NSW DPI)
  • Cameron Clark (University of Sydney)

PhD Projects

P5: Our Farm Our Plan

Helping farmers identify a goal for their farm and develop a road map to achieve it.

P5 Projects



  1. Implement the program’s monitoring and evaluation plan and, in addition, conduct research into the impact of the 1:1 support provided to farmers to inform future investment decisions.
  2. Deliver Our Farm, Our Plan workshops to 16-18 groups (total of 220 farms at an average of eight farms per group).
  3. Deliver 1:1 support for farmers through four structured follow up touch points over 24 months – this support will include facilitating a group of farms to enter their performance data through the DairyBase software.
  4. Building regional delivery capacity – this will include Regional Extension Officers (REOs) and private providers including Training and developing REOs, private providers, 3rd party organisations (Rural Financial Counsellors, Processers, Banks, Accountants and Farm Consultants), TAFE and tertiary education providers; some of these private consultants will engage with a subset of farms to work through specific identified issues as a result of the Our Farm our Plan process.

Project team

  • Lead/co-ordinator: Greg Duncan (Dairy NSW)
  • DA & Libby Heard (DA)
  • Paul van Wel (Dairy NSW)
  • Keran Gandhi (DA project manager)

More info

P6: Future Systems – Dairy Da.T.A

Accessing and utilising existing industry, climate and farm data to develop ways to monitor cows, systems and make better decisions. E.g., heat stress, culling, feeding, weaning. Knowledge from this project may be applied in future to develop decision making tools for farmers.


  1. Analyse dairy systems with a multidisciplinary approach by integrating dairy, nutrition, agronomy, climate, engineering and data science (among others) areas and expertise to develop new and innovative solutions through the application of data, advanced technologies and automation.
  2. Optimise digester function; energy use (cooling requirements/efficiency) in intensive systems – link with P2.
  3. Resilience cow prediction (from Survival, Heat Tolerance, Fertility Breeding Values, local area, region), using historic data + data science = forecasting for early alerts (sale, purchase feed etc).
  4. Digital twin: Exploiting data generated to optimise grain allocation in pasture-based systems.
  5. Develop more efficient, data-driven and data-controlled calf rearing systems for intensive dairy systems using automated feeders.

Project team

  • Lead/co-ordinator: Cameron Clark, (University of Sydney)
  • Yani Garcia (Usyd)
  • Nico Lyons (NSW DPI)
  • Ian Lean (Scibus)
  • Jim Rothwell (NSW DPI)
  • Peter Thompson (Usyd)
  • Juan Gargiulo (NSW DPI)

PhD Projects

P7: Dairy businesses for future climates

Dairy UP P&

This project is designed to help dairy farmers understand their options for adapting their production systems and business to the impacts of climate change. It takes a case study approach for detailed analysis of three different options: to intensify, adapt or simplify. The analysis involves both economics and farm system biophysical modelling to provide an integrated assessment of the case study farm’s options.

Led by Dairy Australia, this project has already completed case studies for dairy farms in Northern Victoria, Gippsland, South Australia and Tasmania. Dairy UP funding has enabled a NSW case study to be added to the project.

Status (February 2022): A NSW case study farm has been selected, located near Kempsey on the Mid-north Coast. The regional working group of farmers and service providers has met to discuss options for the farm in February 2022. Detailed modelling and analytical work is being done by Dan Armstrong, a farm business consultant and Brendan Cullen from the University of Melbourne in collaboration with Zita Ritchie from NSW DPI.

Project details

  • Project contact: Zita Ritchie, DPI NSW zita.ritchie@dpi.nsw.gov.au
  • Timeframe: July 2021-June 2022
  • Collaborators: Dairy Australia, DPI NSW, University of Melbourne, D-ARM Consulting

More info

P8: Farmer Capability

An online staff training tool that farm managers could use with their team to share their processes (SOPs) for on-farm tasks. Signposts to a broad range of formal industry training programs such as Cups on Cups off, Rearing Healthy Calves. Also provides staff with a record of completion of professional development activities.

More info


  1. Supported employee and dairy farm manager registration will be made available to all NSW dairy farm businesses (following on from the previously funded pilot phase in Victoria during mid-late 2020).
  2. Through a re-designed user interface, Dairy Passport users will be able to build their digital CV which is transportable between dairy employers.
  3. Farm Capability Dashboard will be released to provide an inclusive view of activity to enable informed decision making in relation to risk, capability and managing people.
  4. Standard Operating Procedures will be made available via video or QR code with concurrent automated compliance reporting and can be aligned with NSW DPI resources.

Project team

  • Lead/co-ordinator: Paul van Wel (Dairy NSW)
  • Greg Duncan (Dairy NSW)
  • Scott Watson (DA project manager)

P9: Designer Milk

Investigating on-farm opportunities to produce milk with higher value components. For example, producing more milk solids with less water.

P9 projects: 

(*indicates project details yet to be published)


  1. Detection models (targeted at consumers): source of origin, biological provenance verification
  2. Milk attributes / New products: Concentrating milk (‘more milk solids with less water’)
  3. Lateral systems thinking: Manufacturing input of biodegradable products & Colostrum management


Project team

  • Lead/co-ordinator: Nico Lyons, (NSW DPI)
  • Yani Garcia (USyd)
  • Ian Lean (Scibus)
  • Cameron Clark (Usyd)


PhD Projects

P10: Sustainable pathways for surplus calves

Led by Dairy Australia, this Dairy UP project aims to develop sustainable options for managing surplus calves born on dairy farms such as male (bobby) calves or females that are not destined to enter the milking herd.
The project involves working with stakeholders along the entire supply chain to develop pathways for surplus calves that are both socially and economically viable. The use of beef crossbreeding over some of the cows in the herd is one of the options.

The project operates at a regional level in NSW, to ensure ideas are relevant and applicable to local communities.  The approach is based on developing an understanding of community and consumer attitudes as well as the needs of farmers and stakeholders along the supply chain.

A pilot is being undertaken in the Nowra region, involving three phases:

  • Phase 1: Consultation and collaborative design of alternative management pathways
  • Phase 2: Implementation of local projects
  • Phase 3: Evaluate pilot success, plan delivery in other dairy regions of NSW

Progress (April 2022):

A variety of consultation activities have been undertaken with the Nowra community, consumers, farmers, milk and meat processors, feedlots, genetics companies and other industry organisations. A key finding from the consultation is that all stakeholders along the supply chain recognise that sustainable management pathways for surplus calves need to be in place as soon as possible to address growing community/consumer expectations regarding animal welfare  and social licence.
While all stakeholders appreciate the complexity of the challenge, there is widespread recognition of the need to listen to and align with evolving community values alongside strong collaboration along the supply chain. The key challenge for industry is achieving  management options that are economically viable in the face of volatile seasonal and commodity prices and that can be integrated with their farming systems.

Project team

  • Project Lead/co-ordinator: Sarah Bolton, Dairy Australia, sarah.bolton@dairyaustralia.com.au
  • Louise Sunderman, DA
  • Pip Gale (consultant)
  • Paul van Wel, Dairy NSW
  • Greg Duncan, Dairy NSW
  • Keran Gandhi (DA project manager)
  • Sabrina Lomax (USyd)

Timeframe: 2020-2022
Collaborators: Dairy Australia,  Pollinate, Band Consulting

More info (Dairy Australia website)